Exploring caves of living lights in amazing Waitomo

by Jyo

How would you like to see a starlit sky, underground in a cave, while afloat on water?

Waitomo caves, in North New Zealand stands testament to such a surreal sight.

The caves are illuminated by glow worms unique to New Zealand — their tails are bioluminescent, hence you see the light. Whether you explore the caves by raft, or as part of a blackwater tubing experience — seeing this tiny galaxy of living lights is bound to leave you mesmerized.

Entrance to Waitomo Caves

Waitomo & surrounding areas in early morning rain

Tips before you go

  • Waitomo is a renowned tourist destination, keep the crowds in mind as you make your bookings. In my research, I read horror stories of folks who booked larger boat cruises, and were disappointed with their experience — because of obnoxious, loud tourists & shrieking kids. My recommendation is to go for a smaller sized, intimate tour that will allow you to appreciate the serenity & awe of the cave. The tour group I used & loved was Spellbound Tours.
  • It rains heavily in the area, if the caves get flooded, tours will be canceled.
  • You can explore the cave through Black water rafting adventures (go tubing in underground rapids) or go cave rappelling if you’re craving a more adventurous way to explore the caves. Allow a full day for this vs. the traditional boat ride, which is a 3 hour activity.
  • Different tour packages will allow you to explore both the wet & dry caves.
  • If interested in photographing the cave, bring a tripod with you & consider a photography tour.

What You’ll See

Waitomo Wet Caves

Get ready to see glow worms!

Once your eyes get used to the darkness, you’ll start to see a faint green glow. The moment of truth though, is when you get on the raft & look up — all you hear is the sound of gushing water & rapids, while underneath a canopy of calm & ever-present green, glowing lights. These worms have been here for centuries, and there you are, a tiny speck of a human, floating for a few minutes in their space. It’s so serene, it’s overwhelming. I tried, in vain, to photograph this and try to capture the wonder. I just couldn’t…. without a tripod 🙂 and the moving boat. Somethings, I suppose are meant to be captured by the heart & mind, and not a camera 🙂

Photo fail (boo!) but Mojo Win (Yay!)

Ruakuri Dry Cave

Filled with spectacular limestone formations, a spiral staircase, the stalactites & stalagmites & imposing rock walls in the cave are beautiful!

Aranui Dry Cave

Aranui Cave Entrance

Yet another set of dry caves in the Waitomo network, Aranui is home to a few fossils, and the “Weta”, an ancient insect, now an endangered species, dating back to the time of the dinosaurs. You’ll also notice how much greenery Waitomo is surrounded by here.

Scenery around Waitomo

Plenty of Animal Farms

What Are you looking at?

On the way to Waitomo, you’ll drive by several sheep, goat & ostrich farms — stop by to say hello, won’t ya? Oh, and there will be loads of these tiny birds staring at you while you eat lunch. Hi cutie!

I am bird. Feed Me.

Wrap up your day warming up by a fireplace & hot cocoa. Mmmm, cocoa…

Warm up by the fire pit

I had long dreamed of going to New Zealand’s Waitomo caves, and can tell you it certainly lived up to the Mojo hype.

Unless stated otherwise, all photos are produced by & copyrighted by FindMyMoJyo.

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